An article entitled, “Tech Chiefs Get a Bit Older and Wiser,” (author: Kevin Roose, New York Times Large Print Weekly, March 26, 2018, p 18) presents a perspective which may not be addressed at all by those members of the U.S. Congress who will have questioned Facebook’s founder & CEO Mark Zuckerberg this past week.
The issue being faced is that 87 million personal profiles were allegedly accessed by Cambridge Analytica who mined that personal profile information without the prior approval of individuals (who were not asked to opt in or opt out). But do recall that a credit firm recently ‘lost’ 125 million personal credit history profiles. I am certain there are other such incidents.
These are humongous numbers of personal profile information. Personal privacy expectations have been breached. Why are they of such great interest? The reason is not often discussed by the general public whose members think mainly in terms of their own personal experiences. But to those who want to make profits using that information, this unapproved access to that humongous data base of personal information represents an opportunity to ‘strike gold’!
Cybernetic technology and its algorithms makes it possible to ‘mine’ that humongous pile of personal profile data to identify the traits and characteristics of consumers and how they choose to spend their money. A certain number of these personal profiles becomes ‘a high potential consumer unit’ which may be sold to a purveyor of particular goods or services. These individuals may be directly targeted.
I am certain that during the past 2016 presidential campaign, Russian oligarchists allegedly financed operatives whose base was located in St. Petersburg, Florida. They were able to gain illicit access to the data bases of the DNC as well as several registered voter data bases in counties throughout America. Thus, these operatives had the capability to specifically target, with their well-crafted FAKE NEWS or ALTERNATIVE INFORMATION ad placements with specific targeting to communities and their registered voters, thus influencing to an unknown scale, the outcome of that 2016 presidential election.
The FBI and others, responsible for monitoring these unlawful interferences directed at the American Democratic voting process, did call attention to what was going on, but were ignored. SO NOW, THE U.S. CONGRESS ‘IS VERY INTERESTED’ IN MITIGATING ANY INTERFERENCE WITH THE COMING MIDTERM ELECTIONS BY ANYONE. Hopefully this will be a bipartisan effort.
Getting back to Zuckerberg’s agreement to appear before the Senate and the House committees, how did this happen? Roose’s article effectively presents the climate under which innovators such as Zuckerberg, as a graduate student back in 2007, age 22, “created a ‘fledgling social network, and, now FACEBOOK which ‘connects individuals with their friends’. (Only 11 years later,) Facebook is a global powerhouse (whose) pursuit of growth has fueled a larger backlash against tech.”
“During this same time, Zuckerberg has aged to 33; has become smarter and a more self-aware leader than he was at age 22. There was a lot of growing up in today’s tech industry where fortunes are being made by several ‘whiz kids’. These more mature individuals are now starting families and starting to think about their legacies.”
“The tech industry’s leaders have gotten older and seemingly more attuned to the power (and influence) they wield. Five years ago, there was no talk about sympathy, empathy, ethics, or moral responsibility. This industry’s largest firms have become mature, bureaucratic businesses whose daily decisions about issues such as ‘global information wars’, privacy, diversity, corporate altruism, and sexual harassment
are extensively scrutinized.”
“The idea that a product could make your life worse was not in anyone’s perception.” said Gregory Hochmuth, an early engineer at INSTAGRAM. Susan Wojcicki (YouTube), Sundar Pichai (Google’s CEO), Larry Page and Sergey Brin (co-founders of search engines as graduate students) all fit into this cohort of former ‘youthful whiz kids’ who have matured and now think about stuff more globally.
“That perspective helps explain the shock many founders felt when the internet grew into the foundation of global culture and commercial infrastructure. No one was thinking about: ‘Wow, in 15 years, billions of people are going to be using this site every day.” said Andrew McCollum, age 34, one of Facebooks founders. “The goal was ‘How do we create something great?’—not ‘What’s your plan for world domination?’”
“Twitter is another tech giant examining its platform role in the real world. In a series of recent tweets, Jack Dorsey, CEO, Twitter, age 41, said the company was trying to improve the health and civility of its platform after years of neglect. “We didn’t fully predict nor understand the real world negative consequences. We acknowledge that now and are determined to find holistic and fair solutions.”
“Maureen Taylor, a leadership communications expert, says, “This kind of earnest self-examination was becoming more frequent among founders. As you get older, you realize your responsibilities are bigger. People are becoming very thoughtful about the ramifications of technology and remembering that the whole point was to make the whole world a better place.”
“You become more responsible when you have more to lose,” said Mr. Malik.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) needs to sustain Net Neutrality if social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. are to continue to develop as a means of connecting people with each other. Equal access and level of speedy service are essential to ‘letting the world’s people connect with each other as a matter of their choice rather than that of oligarchists or dictators.
I viewed the initial two hours of CNN’s broadcast of Mark Zuckerberg’s interactions with several U.S. Senators who posed questions. I was impressed by his candor; by his admissions that social media networks needed reasonable, workable, and acceptable monitoring and regulations. His responses parried those questions posed in a confrontational manner by those elected officials who were trained adversarial interrogators.
His calm confident leadership displayed well. His willingness to have Facebook’s expert teams available and accessible communicated that solutions would be devised and would minimize the ability of anyone to influence the coming 2018 Midterm elections.